Family seeks answers in women's disappearance

This family snapshot of Olief Nash, right, and Ivy Hutchingson was taken at their Butler Island camp about 2 years ago. The elderly sisters were last seen on the island in mid-September

Photo courtesy of Melvene Brown and Barbara Young
Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 1:19 a.m.
Melvene Brown and Barbara Young know that their mother and aunt may never be found.
What they are less certain off is whether they will ever know what happened to the two elderly women who disappeared during one of their periodic boating and camping trips.
Brown's friends have helped her bring a psychic into the case in hopes of solving the mystery.
Olief Edmonds Nash, 78, and Ivy Edmonds Hutchingson, 81, are the Dixie County sisters who launched a small, green aluminum boat from Horseshoe Beach on Sept. 18 bound for Butler Island.
The women are believed to have paddled or rowed the boat across about three miles of Gulf waters to reach the island, a trip they had both made many times before. Witnesses told investigators from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission they saw both women on Butler Island about 36 hours after the pair had left Horseshoe Beach, but no one has reported seeing them since then.
Nash and Hutchingson were reported missing by family members when it became clear that the women were more than a day overdue to return. FWC search teams along with members of the Dixie County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard and dozens of private residents spent days searching for the women without success.
"It was a prolonged search by air and water and along the coastline," said FWC Capt. Marty Redmond.
"I know my mom is not coming home," Young said. "I wish that weren't true, but it is. And, I would like to express my appreciation to the people who worked so hard in the search."
The possibility of foul play is something that Brown often considers.
Brown said some of her friends helped her pay for psychic Noreen Renier to work on the case on two occasions. Renier is a former Williston area resident now based in Virginia.
During the first session over the telephone a few weeks after the women were last seen, Brown said Renier sensed that Nash and Hutchingson were on land and that there was a building, an airport, a radar station and rocks and shells involved in their location. The psychic also said she believed the women were not missing any of their clothing and that a machine would be needed to find them because their boat had been damaged and broken.
During a second session in mid-December, Brown said Renier urged the family to consider that the women were somewhere between Suwannee and Shired Island and that they may be wedged underwater and unable to come to the surface.
Brown also expressed concern that the search for her relatives not be forgotten because of changes at the Sheriff's Office.
Earlier this week Dewey Hatcher was sworn in as a the new sheriff in Dixie County, replacing the retiring Sammy Woodall.
Hatcher has since reassigned investigators who worked on the case to other jobs in the department.
Hatcher told The Sun late Thursday that as a resident of Horseshoe Beach, he was well aware of the case and would reactivate his agency's investigation as soon as there is any new information available.
"Even though all this time has passed since anyone saw those two women, they are still classified as missing persons," Hatcher said.
Nash's granddaughters, Margaret Brown, 18, and Pam Brown, 20, said they don't think their grandmother and great aunt ever left the island to come back.
"The reason I don't think my granny ever left the island was that there were still eggs on the table and she never left eggs out," Margaret Brown said.
"Going out to the island was about all she ever talked about," Pam Brown said. "You could walk off that island in low tide if you had a problem with a boat, and she knew that."
Melvene Brown said something else that concerns her is that her mother frequently took a pistol with her to the island to dispatch snakes she came across, but had left the pistol at her Horseshoe Beach home.
"Now that pistol is missing and no one knows where it is," Brown said. "I can't prove what happened to my mother until I get my mother back, and I don't know if that will ever happen."
Anyone with information about the missing women or their boat is asked to contact the Dixie County Sheriff's Office at (352) 498-1220 or FWC at (888) 404-3922.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or

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